ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Karnataka's Smart, New Solar Pump Policy for Irrigation

The runaway growth in states of subsidised solar pumps, which provide quality energy at near-zero marginal cost, can pose a bigger threat of groundwater over-exploitation than free power has done so far. The best way to meet this threat is by paying farmers to "grow" solar power as a remunerative cash crop. Doing so can reduce pressure on aquifers, cut the subsidy burden on electricity companies, reduce the carbon footprint of agriculture and improve farm incomes. Karnataka's new Surya Raitha policy has ken a small step in this direction.

1 The Energy-Irrigation Nexus

Solar energy, long considered ideal for home lighting uses, has suddenly become attractive for pumping irrigation water. India already has some 20,000 solar irrigation pumps (SIPs) in fields; and farmers everywhere seem happy with their performance and potential (Kishore et al 2014a; Tiwary 2012). However, providing farmers reliable energy for pumping is as much of a challenge as the availability of water. This makes SIPs important and their numbers are expected to grow at exponential rates in the coming years.

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